The Buffalo Sabres were 58 seconds from winning in regulation, but ended up dropping the decision in the skills competition after over time solved nothing. With them chasing the Hurricanes for 8th place in the Eastern Conference, acquiring any point that can be had is vital. Only time will tell if letting the second point slip away against Detroit last night will come back to bite them.
Red Wings 3 Sabres 2 (SO)
I said after the loss against Dallas on Thursday night, that sometimes the Wings can get away without playing a full 60 minute game.Tonight was one of those games.
The Sabres were all over the Wings in the first period, and they forced Joey MacDonald into making way too many saves. In all, the Sabres took 15 shots on goal in the frame, scoring on two of them. Despite giving up two in one period, I’d be hard-pressed to say that MacDonald had a bad opening 20 minutes. He made some very good stops, and both goals were the result of odd-man rushes from bad defensive pinches.
From then on, MacDonald slammed the door shut on the next 17 shots he faced in regulation and over time, and stopped both Buffalo shootout attempts. My confidence in him is definitely growing in the last couple of appearances, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he is re-signed for next year with a similar role on the team.
The big news tonight was the return of Valtteri Filppula and Mike Modano who had missed 8 and 41 games respectively with groin and wrist injuries. They played together on a line with Tomas Holmstrom, and while you could tell that they weren’t quite 100% back to game speed yet, the potential is certainly there for that to be a very good line.
They created some scoring chances for the Wings, but they weren’t without their drawbacks. Specifically, Valtteri Filppula mentioned between the first and second period that his legs were feeling heavy in his first game action in three weeks. Mike Modano, who I had predicted would be playing the wing due to the fact that he still lacks complete sensation in his surgically repaired wrist, actually played center and took face-offs for that line. I think that going forward, the Wings might want to have Filppula taking draws, because Mo got absolutely worked over in the circle, going 1-8.
Actually, all of the Wings pivots had a rough night, with only Datsyuk putting together a winning record (8-13, 62%).
I thought Jakub Kindl had a very good game tonight filling in for Brian Rafalski, who was out with back spasms. He was still the low-man in terms of ice time amongst defensemen, but he had nearly 16 minutes, and I thought he had some solid plays in both ends.
I also thought Niklas Kronwall had a good game, especially offensively, as he drove the puck to the net a couple of times. He is much more effective when he is active offensively.
The Wings are heading to California now for 3 games, followed by one in Phoenix before heading back to Detroit. They’ll be picking up Brian Rafalski on the way, and dropping off Johan Franzen to be with his wife. They are expecting their first child today, and he will likely miss at least the Monday game in Los Angeles. With the team in California, I’m wondering if Babcock will give Kindl a few more games and let Salei go spend some time with his wife, who is also pregnant.
Either way, the next time the puck drops for a Wings game, the trade deadline, so between now and then make sure you check back here frequently for Deadline Day updates. You can also follow me on Twitter (@robbenneian).
The Off Wing View’s Three Stars
3. Andrej Sekera 1G, 1A – After being a healthy scratch for the previous three games, he got his opportunity to re-enter the good graces of Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff. Mission accomplished, I’d say.
2. Jiri Hudler 1G, SO Winner – Hudler nearly potted one on a breakaway earlier in the game, but his goal with 58 seconds left sent the game to OT. After Pavel Datsyuk netted one in the shootout, Hudler put the game on ice. Honorable mention to linemate Pavel Datsyuk, who had a fantastic game.
1. Joey MacDonald 30 saves + 2 in SO – MacDonald really didn’t get much help in the first period and he was impenetrable since then.